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Strong Crypto Safeguards Human Rights Data

Strong cryptography can safeguard critical human rights data from repressive governments that steal data in order to persecute citizens. When vulnerable citizens dare to bear witness by naming perpetrators, their crimes, and their victims, the sensitive identifying information about those witnesses must be protected. In the late 1990s, HRDAG’s Director of Research, Patrick Ball, began his work with encrypted data while documenting crimes committed by the Guatemalan national police—and strong cryptography has remained critical to all of HRDAG’s work. hr {border-width:20px;} .main-container p a{color:#f98d00 !important;} h2 {font-we...

What HBR Gets Wrong About Algorithms and Bias

“Kristian Lum… organized a workshop together with Elizabeth Bender, a staff attorney for the NY Legal Aid Society and former public defender, and Terrence Wilkerson, an innocent man who had been arrested and could not afford bail. Together, they shared first hand experience about the obstacles and inefficiencies that occur in the legal system, providing valuable context to the debate around COMPAS.”


Covid-19 Research and Resources

HRDAG is identifying and interpreting the best science we can find to shed light on the global crisis brought on by the novel coronavirus, about which we still know so little. Right now, most of the data on the virus SARS-CoV-2 and Covid-19, the condition caused by the virus, are incomplete and unrepresentative, which means that there is a great deal of uncertainty. But making sense of imperfect datasets is what we do. HRDAG is contributing to a better understanding with explainers, essays, and original research, and we are highlighting trustworthy resources for those who want to dig deeper. Papers and articles by HRDAG .ugb-bbeb275 .ugb-blo...

Counting the Dead in Sri Lanka

ITJP and HRDAG are urging groups inside and outside Sri Lanka to share existing casualty lists.

Press Release, Timor-Leste, February 2006

SILICON VALLEY GROUP USES TECHNOLOGY TO HELP THE TRUTH COMMISSION ANSWER DISPUTED QUESTIONS ABOUT MASSIVE POLITICAL VIOLENCE IN TIMOR-LESTE Palo Alto, CA, February 9, 2006 – The Benetech® Initiative today released a statistical report detailing widespread and systematic violations in Timor-Leste during the period 1974-1999. Benetech's statistical analysis establishes that at least 102,800 (+/- 11,000) Timorese died as a result of the conflict. Approximately 18,600 (+/- 1000) Timorese were killed or disappeared, while the remainder died due to hunger and illness in excess of what would be expected due to peacetime mortality. The magnitude of deaths ...

FAQs on Predictive Policing and Bias

Last month Significance magazine published an article on the topic of predictive policing and police bias, which I co-authored with William Isaac. Since then, we've published a blogpost about it and fielded a few recurring questions. Here they are, along with our responses. Do your findings still apply given that PredPol uses crime reports rather than arrests as training data? Because this article was meant for an audience that is not necessarily well-versed in criminal justice data and we were under a strict word limit, we simplified language in describing the data. The data we used is a version of the Oakland Police Department’s crime report...

RustConf 2019, and systems programming as a data scientist

It could make sense to use Rust as a data journalist for in-browser computations, and other thoughts from RustConf.

Stephen Fienberg 1942-2016

We are saddened by the passing of Steve Fienberg yesterday in Pittsburgh, at the age of 74. He is perhaps best known around the world for bringing statistics to science and public policy and was a beloved professor at Carnegie Mellon University. At HRDAG we are in awe of and grateful for the work Steve did formalizing multiple systems estimation. His work on that front blazed a trail and essentially enabled all of our most important analytical work at the intersection of human rights and statistical science. If we are to reduce the amount of human violence in the world, the first task is to determine the scope of the violence, to know how much of ...

Deportation Possible for El Salvador’s Gen. García – Supported by HRDAG Analysis

Gen. José Guillermo García, El Salvador’s defense minister from 1979 to 1983, may be deported from Florida to El Salvador because of his involvement in war crimes that occurred under his command. The recommendation comes from a Miami immigration judge, whose decision was supported with expert testimony from Stanford political science professor Terry Karl, who presented extensive statistical analysis of killings, disappearances, kidnappings, torture and other crimes under Gen. García’s watch. The statistical analysis was a joint effort between Professor Karl and Amelia Hoover Green and Patrick Ball of Human Rights Data Analysis Group (HRDAG). ...

Happy Ada Lovelace Day!

As an organization that uses science to advocate for human rights, the goals and issues represented by Ada Lovelace Day are very near and dear to our hearts.  Additionally, we are lucky to work with and be advised by some pretty kick-ass ladies in STEM (see our People page to learn more about these amazing women (and men)). I brainstormed a list of women I could write about, as Finding Ada suggests we celebrate today by blogging about a STEM heroine.  I considered Anita Borg (she has her own institute!), who advocated tirelessly for women in computer science.  I thought about Sally Wyatt, keynote speaker and organizer of the fascinating workshop...

Multiple Systems Estimation: Stratification and Estimation

<< Previous post, MSE: The Matching Process Q10. What is stratification? Q11. [In depth] How do HRDAG analysts approach stratification, and why is it important? Q12. How does MSE find the total number of violations? Q13. [In depth] What are the assumptions of two-system MSE (capture-recapture)? Why are they not necessary with three or more systems? Q14. What statistical model(s) does HRDAG typically use to calculate MSE estimates? (more…)

Recent Talks


Are journalists lowballing the number of Iraqi war dead?

The Columbia Journalism Review investigates the casualty count in Iraq, more than a decade after the U.S. invasion. HRDAG executive director Patrick Ball is quoted. “IBC is very good at covering the bombs that go off in markets,” said Patrick Ball, an analyst at the Human Rights Data Analysis Group who says his whole career is to study “people being killed.” But quiet assassinations and military skirmishes away from the capital often receive little or no media attention.


Kriege und Social Media: Die Daten sind nicht perfekt

Suddeutsche Zeitung writer Mirjam Hauck interviewed HRDAG affiliate Anita Gohdes about the pitfalls of relying on social media data when interpreting violence in the context of war. This article, “Kriege und Social Media: Die Daten sind nicht perfekt,” is in German.


Experts Greet Kosovo Memory Book

On Wednesday, February 4, in Pristina, international experts praised the Humanitarian Law Centre’s database on victims of the Kosovo conflict, the Kosovo Memory Book. HRDAG executive director Patrick Ball is quoted in the article that appeared in Balkan Transitional Justice.


Civil War in Syria: The Internet as a Weapon of War

Suddeutsche Zeitung writer Hakan Tanriverdi interviews HRDAG affiliate Anita Gohdes and writes about her work on the Syrian casualty enumeration project for the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. This article, “Bürgerkrieg in Syrien: Das Internet als Kriegswaffe,” is in German.


Data and Social Good: Using Data Science to Improve Lives, Fight Injustice, and Support Democracy

100x100-oreillymedia-logoIn this free, downloadable report, Mike Barlow of O’Reilly Media cites several examples of how data and the work of data scientists have made a measurable impact on organizations such as DataKind, a group that connects socially minded data scientists with organizations working to address critical humanitarian issues. HRDAG—and executive director Megan Price—is one of the first organizations whose work is mentioned.


Data-driven development needs both social and computer scientists

Excerpt:

Data scientists are programmers who ignore probability but like pretty graphs, said Patrick Ball, a statistician and human rights advocate who cofounded the Human Rights Data Analysis Group.

“Data is broken,” Ball said. “Anyone who thinks they’re going to use big data to solve a problem is already on the path to fantasy land.”


Download: Megan Price

nyt_square_logoExecutive director Megan Price is interviewed in The New York Times’ Sunday Review, as part of a series known as “Download,” which features a biosketch of “Influencers and their interests.”


The Case Against a Golden Key

Patrick Ball (2016). The case against a golden key. Foreign Affairs. September 14, 2016.  ©2016 Council on Foreign Relations, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Patrick Ball (2016). The case against a golden key. Foreign Affairs. September 14, 2016.  ©2016 Council on Foreign Relations, Inc. All Rights Reserved.


Our work has been used by truth commissions, international criminal tribunals, and non-governmental human rights organizations. We have worked with partners on projects on five continents.

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